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Disagreement continues about Cincinnati transit tax

Michael Keating

A Cincinnati Council Member and a Mayoral candidate are accusing city officials of trying to change the use of a transit fund to pay for the streetcar project.  

Christopher Smitherman and John Cranley held a news conference Monday morning in downtown Cincinnati next to Metro's Government Square facility.  

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority is meeting Tuesday to vote on a change an agreement with the city.  

Cranley said that's so the city can use money collected from the transit tax to pay for the streetcar in addition to Metro bus service.

‘If they want to fund the streetcar, they should find their own dollars for it,” Cranley said.  “And they shouldn’t be raiding the transit fund, which the voters of Cincinnati put into the Charter in 1972 to be for bus service to get people to and from their jobs.”

But city officials said they have no intention of using the transit tax for the streetcar project.  

Mayor Mark Mallory said as much in an op-ed in today's Monday’s Cincinnati Enquirer and during an interview.

“I think this might be one of the rare occasions where Council Member Smitherman, former Council Member John Cranley and Mayor Mark Mallory agree on the same point,” Mallory said.  “We should not, we will not use transit funds for the operation, construction or any other aspect of the streetcar.  It will not happen.”

He said the city is rejecting a new restriction SORTA has proposed to add to the agreement.  

Mallory wrote the dispute relates back to a lawsuit the transit agency filed against the city in an attempt to define the use of the transit fund.  He said the goal is to change the law so the transit fund would be dedicated solely to SORTA.  

Mallory wrote although that has been the practice and will continue to be so, such a restriction would undermine the city charter.

Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.